After a holiday hiatus, I’m back to update you good folks about the best storylines going on in the Italian Superlega the past few weeks. The first half of the season is in the books, and with a bunch of games in the Superlega and the CEV Champion’s League coming up, I’m hoping to do these more often.
The top three teams and the bottom three teams have started to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in a meaningful way. The usual three suspects; Perugia (42), Lube (41) and Modena (38) are still head and shoulders above the rest of the field, and pretty much only lose to each other. Trentino (30) has been a tear recently and might be the only team to challenge the top 3, winning 9 games in a row after a 2-5 start. On the other end of the spectrum are Valentia (9), Castellana (7), and Sora (6). While each team has a strong foreign opposite (Ben Patch, Georgios Tzioumakas, and Dusan Petkovic respectively), their inconsistent passing and serving compared to the rest of the league reinforces that there is a lot to volleyball other than kills.
Two Canadian outsides are embroiled in minutes fights that could determine their future on their respective teams. Stephen Maar of Verona was one of the best scorers in the SuperLega last season as a first time pro and played a huge role for Canada in their third-place finish at the 2017 World League. However, this season the MacMaster University alumni has struggled with hitting (43.2%) and shanked almost half his passes (49%). Nicolas Hoag on the other hand only played in a handful of world league matches and was signed as an insurance policy for Trentino in case one of their established stars, Uros Kovacevic and Filippo Lanza, got injured. After an early-season injury to Kovacevic freed up some playing time for Hoag, he became the go-to player for Trentino, scoring 3.6 points per set on 50.6% hitting and winning player of the month in December. With all three outsides healthy, coach Angelo Lorenzetti is currently playing the hot hand, and the crunch time lineup has not been solidified quite yet. The real question is whether these developments will affect the pecking order on the Canadian national team this summer, where expectations will be high.
Ngapeth drama! No season would be complete without a bit of this. Earvin and his brother Swan are currently feuding with renowned Bulgarian coach Radostin Stoytchev, and skipped multiple practice days and sat out their game against Padova. Rumor is that many players on the team do not enjoy Stoytchev’s authoritarian style of coaching. The Ngapeths were back for the January 7th game against Monza not that Swan plays anyway, and everyone seems to have calmed down…for now. Earvin and Radostin are both signed with the team until 2020, so hopefully, this mutiny results in no long-term problems that will harm Modena’s chances. And while Ngapeth’s actions were certainly not professional, when push comes to shove the players are more important to team success than the coach so Modena must choose its response well.
Lots of volleyball in the next few months so a great time to start watching.